State’s push to vaccinate underserved areas leads to confusion among residents

Coronavirus

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The soon-to-be-open vaccination site at Delavan Grider Community Center is New York State’s way of focusing on zip codes where distribution is low. But some who live in the eligible areas tell News 4 while that sounds great in theory, it’s not as easy in practice.

“They want you to get the vaccine, they want to approach the underserved community,” said Nylsa Pineiro. “But you have to jump through hoops in order to get that appointment.”

Pineiro lives in Buffalo’s 14213 zip code, which is one of the 10 zip codes eligible to be vaccinated starting next week at the center.

“The state has strategically looked at areas, especially in areas that have a huge health disparity, where these vaccines are probably needed the most,” said Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen.

But Delavan Grider Community Center, which is set to open next Wednesday, March 3, still has several openings despite the clear need in these areas. Pineiro said confusion may be to blame.

“You dial the number [to make an appointment] and it gives you a whole list of instructions,” Pineiro said. “It just keeps going back to ‘we’re busy, the lines are busy, high volume, please call back another time.’ And, you know, if you just do that and then don’t call back, you don’t get an appointment. What I realized is you have to keep redialing.”

Pineiro said she called a dozen times before finally getting through to a representative to make an appointment. People also have the option of going onto the state’s website to make an appointment, but Pineiro said some people she knows don’t have internet or may have a hard time using a computer.

Pridgen said this is when the City of Good Neighbors must step up.

“Families are going to have to wrap themselves around their loved one and help them through the process if that loved one wants a vaccine,” he said.

Pineiro said she hopes people still make appointments to get vaccines even if they think the process is complicated.

“I think if the vaccine is going to help, then I’m going to do my little part to get others to take that vaccine, to take that step and do it. But I’m worried the obstacles may prevent these people from actually making an appointment to get the vaccine,” she said. “If you can help your grandparent, if you can help your neighbor to go out and get that appointment and get that vaccine, I think that will help us all in the end.”

If you live in one of the zip codes eligible for the vaccine, there are now three ways to do it. You can make an appointment by calling (833) 697-4829, going through the state’s website, or – starting March 3 – people are able to go directly to the Delavan Grider site to make the appointment in person. If you do that option, though, it’s not guaranteed your appointment will be the same day, only the soonest available.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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